Newfound Press announces the publication of a new multimedia work on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
In Found, Featured, then Forgotten: U.S. Network TV News and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Mark Harmon gives an account of the veterans’ protests against the war and their depiction in the American media. Through interviews with early leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and examination of network television news coverage from the Vietnam era, Harmon rescues the veterans’ story from the inevitable historical revisionism that befalls social movements over time.
The Vietnam War era marks the first time in American history that substantial numbers of veterans returned home to protest a war still in progress. The VVAW were part of a larger GI protest against U.S. involvement in Vietnam that included resistance to the draft, desertions, and an extensive underground GI press. Many resisting GIs were court-martialed and given harsh sentences, sometimes for offenses as trivial as gathering to discuss the morality of the war.
The VVAW were remarkably media savvy, staging compelling media events such as the demonstration dubbed Dewey Canyon III, during which hundreds of soldiers flung away their war medals on the steps of the Capitol. The VVAW wisely distinguished themselves from other anti-war groups, shunning violence and preserving the credibility granted to them as returning veterans.
According to Harmon, the press’s understanding of the VVAW protests followed an almost predictable course. The movement was initially ignored then downplayed, its message first distorted then co-opted, the protests dismissed as no longer needed then, finally, forgotten. Harmon correlates this progression with pivotal events in the VVAW’s protest movement.
The Winter Soldier Investigations in January and February of 1971, at which soldiers testified to their personal experience of war crimes, were largely ignored by the media. But Dewey Canyon in April of 1971, which closely followed the court martial of Lt. William Calley for his actions in the massacre at My Lai, garnered significant network news attention. By the time of the Silent March on the Republican National Convention in August 1972, the media were declaring the wind-down of the war and the last gasp of the protest movement. Network television coverage of the VVAW presence at the Convention was scant to non-existent. The full story of the Silent March and wheelchair-bound veterans interrupting Nixon’s acceptance speech with shouts of “Stop the bombing! Stop the war!” had to be reconstructed from the accounts of participants and the alternative media.
Harmon’s retelling of protests by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War is illustrated with audio and video clips of contemporaneous news reports and statements by participating veterans, making this multimedia work a dynamic and invaluable resource for scholars of the Vietnam War, its veterans, and the news media during the Vietnam era.
Dr. Mark D. Harmon is associate professor in the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media. He has authored more than two dozen academic research articles, and more than 50 refereed research presentations. He has been honored with the UT College of Communication’s outstanding research award as well as its outstanding teaching award and a chancellor’s citation for extraordinary community service. The International Radio and Television Society honored him in 2004 as its Frank Stanton fellow for distinguished broadcast education. His career includes stints as a television news producer and reporter, radio news reporter, and radio talk show host. He also has a political resume, having served as Knox County (Tennessee) Commissioner, Congressional candidate (Texas, 13th District), and Democratic Party county chairman.
Newfound Press is an online imprint of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Libraries. The Press publishes peer-reviewed content that merits wide dissemination but is unlikely to be published by a traditional press because of narrow focus or innovative format. Newfound Press titles are freely available online at newfoundpress.utk.edu.